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On the Town

Beautiful Dolls and Only Girls

This summer marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War, the conflict that gave us the modern world - Communist Russia, the post-Ottoman Middle East, Europe's loss of civilizational confidence. The catalyst for war was the assassination of the Archduke Franz-Ferdinand, which Mark noted here a month ago. In the weeks ahead, we'll be looking at some of World War One's cultural legacy, for good or ill. As a curtain-raiser, here's an encore presentation of a SteynOnline audio special, celebrating the British Tommies' favourite ballad of the war years, "If You Were The Only Girl In The World", and its composer Nat D Ayer.

Ayer was a two-hit wonder, with an ocean between them: "If You Were The Only Girl" was his British hit; his American hit from five years earlier was known to generations of Looney Tunes viewers for most of the next century - "Oh, You Beautiful Doll". This special podcast was first broadcast to mark the 100th birthday of "Beautiful Doll" in 2011. Mark celebrates the song with help not just from Mel Torme and Al Jolson but also Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Sylvester and Tweety - and then he talks to Nat Ayer's son, Nat Ayer Jr, about "If You Were The Only Girl In The World", the great English ballad of the First World War, and indelibly linked with that conflict through the memories of a generation of soldiers. We'll trace the evolution of both songs over the course of a century through ragtime, jazz, western, rock'n'roll - and we'll hear not only Dean Martin, Barbra Streisand, Richard Rodney Bennett and others but also the composer himself perform both his enduring tunes. We'll also hear Nat D Ayer sing Irving Berlin - and the "Me And Mrs Jones" of 1910.

To listen to this SteynOnline audio special, simply click above.

from On the Town, July 26, 2014

 

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